Yeah, I fell off the “write a blog post in the morning wait time” bus after stage 4. However, now that I’m home and have lots of spare time, I can elaborate on the fun of each stage…
Following stage #3, I was totally hosed (I can say that now since the race is officially over). After I’d cleaned up, I crawled into the bed and laid there, unable to sleep because my heart was thumping up behind my eyeballs. Eventually, Matt brought a pot of gluten free mac and cheese up to me, and I devoured the whole thing, straight out of the pot with a spoon. The remainder of the time before the podium/rider meeting was spent wallowing in bed and watching an afternoon COPS marathon.
So, the morning of Stage #4, I was kind of wondering what sort of legs I’d have. Last year, they’d come around well, and, luckily, this year was quite the same. After the first gut punch climbs out of town (the first climb is never fun because, being on a 32×22, I get passed by traffic on the way to the climb, then get caught in granny gear traffic on the way up), we rode a trail next to an aqueduct through Keystone. My moment of glory came when I rode all of the skinny bridges on one section of trail (ok, so they were ground level and 2 feet wide with a drop off on the left side, but I clearly remember skateboard-pushing over at least one last year).
After a steep hikey climb and the next aid station, we started the gravel road climb up to the Colorado Trail. Its pitches are just right for singlespeeding comfortably, and I fed off of the misery of all the granny geared riders as I passed them. I was starting to feel better about descending as well, and was only passed back by one person on the way down to aid #3.
The climb out of aid 3 was a gut puncher, but I decided that instead of pacing myself and walking early, I’d start riding some of the steeper stuff- just to see what would happen. I still walked a requisite amount, but I did decide at that point in the race that I should start doing some squats and whatnot to make my legs stronger. I finished stage 4 feeling better than the day before, putting another chunk of time into my competition.
That afternoon, feeling as though my body was starting to absorb the effort instead of resisting it, I shuffled around with Matt in downtown Breckenridge, poking around in some of the touristy t-shirt shops before going to the evening riders meeting. I don’t remember what night this is from, but for the most part, Matt stayed back at the condo during the meetings, because he’d cook stuff like this:
(Buffalo burger, rice, wilted spinach & garlic, and sweet potato fries covered in cheese and bacon)
The next day’s challenge was stage #5- the Wheeler Pass stage. The course changed a little from the previous year- omitting the Peaks Trail climb and adding a climb on Miner’s Creek road instead. I was sorely tempted to try to repeat my effort from last year, where I rode & hiked through nearly the entire “peloton” to catch the front of the Open Women’s field, who’d started several waves ahead of the singlespeed women (Wheeler is the only stage to use a “wave” start, and SS Women got the short end of the start stick and went LAST into a singletrack climb). Trying to avoid a repeat of the previous year’s wave start, I asked Mike at the rider’s meeting if, since there were only two of us, he’d just toss us in with the Open Women, and he told me that’d be no problem.
That was only partially true, because, Thursday morning (which would later be dubbed “Throat Punch Thursday”), he announced that we’d start with a giant wave #3- one back from the open women. I guess he couldn’t have the singlespeed men, who were also stuck in there, getting butthurt that the SS women were one wave up? I don’t know, but at least it wasn’t in the very back.
The course started with a quick climb up the ski hill to spread things out before dropping down a little and turning onto the Burro Trail. I don’t really know what it is about the Burro Trail, but I like to hammer the hell out of it. It’s rooty as hell, kinda rocky, and there’s multiple lines up most of the pitchy spots, so if you’re in “hammer” mode, you can take the “f*ck these roots” line straight up past 3 people who are taking the “eww, roots” line off to the side. I went cross country pace up the climb prettymuch the entire time until I reached the hike-a-bike section of the Wheeler Trail. At that point, I had only gained a little time on the open women, so I decided I’d just stay in my “spot” in the hike line rather than racing through everyone like I had last year.
At the top, there was bacon. Last year, since I was racing my heart out of my chest, I hadn’t taken the bacon feed. This year, I had to make up for it in spectacular fashion, not only taking the bacon feed, but somewhat humiliating myself in the process:
(photo credit to Eddie Clark, who later asked to make sure I didn’t mind him posting it)
The descent off of Wheeler Pass is a widow-maker. The trail above the treeline is skinny, steep, off-camber, and lined with rocks and bushes that want to grab your front wheel and send you cartwheeling into more rocks and bushes. I wrecked on that section during the Breck 100 a couple of years ago. The next part of the descent, once you’re back into the treeline, is more steep, rocky, and tricky. I wrecked there at last year’s Breck Epic when I was doing my best to out-descend Jennifer Wilson for the stage win. This year, with a huge lead for overall 1st, I decided I’d play it safe (Dax Massey, who was in the men’s SS lead, wasn’t so cautious, and had a hard wreck, breaking two ribs, puncturing his lung, and ending his week of racing). I made it down and onto the bike path without incident.
The bike path is singlespeed purgatory. I had multiple people offer to let me draft, but, with the exception of the faster downhill section, I wasn’t staying on any wheels of anyone. One guy even tried to push me, but I yelled at him right away to stop. Pushing is only a valid SS gear when it’s you, pushing your bike.
In previous years, the course went from bike path to the Peaks Trail. This year, it was re-routed (to avoid dogwalkers/hikers) to go up a terrible climb on Miner’s Creek Road before dropping to the flat part of the Peaks Trail. It was the one time this week that I cursed at hike-a-bike, mostly because the climb before was fun/rooty and on singletrack, and the Miner’s Creek re-route was exactly the opposite and gained about 500 extra feet before descending back to the Peaks Trail.
By the time I got to the Peaks Trail, I was in Angry Singlespeed mode. On the short punchy uphill or techy spots, I hammered past anyone on a granny gear with whatever was left in my legs, making short work of the final few miles of the course. Throat-Punch-Thursday, complete. All that was between me and the SSSRWC (singlespeed stage race world championship) was a somewhat easier stage 6.